Chronic injuries due to broken and missing truck ramps?
(St. Louis, Missouri)
I work for a moving/hauling company, as I'm sure many injury claims originate from. If you've never worked in the moving industry, there are certain pieces of equipment that can change the course of how your body degrades over time. One of a mover's greatest friends is a lift-gate or an inclined ramp (these come standard on every moving/hauling truck I've ever seen).
Well, two years ago, about the same time our boss purchased trucks that were actually a foot HIGHER off the ground, one of the trucks in our fleet came back with a broken ramp. "Well that's not good" seemed to be the consensus of my truck team members and myself.
They removed the ramp completely the next day and for the past TWO YEARS, we have been pleading for the ramp to be replaced. The difference between rolling a 500lb. piano on a two wheel dolly up a ramp or having to use every ounce of your body to lean and lift it onto a 4 1/2 foot tall truck bed with your partner is staggering.
It started with one truck. Then it was two. Then it was three. And now it's half the fleet. When a truck team leaves each day they are faced with a potential imminent wear on their body that is completely unnecessary and due to our employer's KNOWN improper safety equipment.
Personally, my back rarely has a moment of peace, and I'm faced with a soreness that creeps with each passing day. I understand the workman's comp laws prohibit suing for negligence, but what about in the case of deliberate knowledge of improper safety equipment? Thank you for your time.
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ANSWER for "Chronic injuries due to broken and missing truck ramps?":
Charlie (St. Louis, Missouri):
There are some rare cases where an injured worker can step outside the workers' comp non-negligence position and pursue an employer for injuries. For a worker to be able to sue an employer, there must be proof the employer's actions or omissions were grossly negligent, or constituted a wonton disregard for the safety and well-being of workers.
The facts you present, albeit serious, do not appear to constitute gross negligence, or a wonton disregard for your safety or well-being. In your case, you have the option of resigning your position, or waiting until you become seriously injured.
Because you are aware of the dangerous condition, you have a legal duty to mitigate your circumstances so you do not become injured. Unfortunately, that mitigation may require you to resign your position and seek new employment. Alternately, you can continue working and hope you aren't injured. If you are, you will have every right to take advantage of the workers' compensation process.
You can of course file an anonymous OSHA complaint against your employer. They will come and investigate to see if your employer is following safety standards. If not, they can force your employer into compliance.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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